"A flexible approach to diet in sports"
Whatever the sport, from football and tennis to bodybuilding, the result is nothing but the sum of various specific biological adaptations and well-dosed stimuli that are capable of delivering the desired response, whether it is athletic or aesthetic performance.
Once the stimulus (stress) is determined, a progressive overload must be created in order to allow the continuous adaptation to an increasing stress in accordance with supercompensation rules and the G.A.S. law. Recovery is fundamental, which is to be optimised by improving the quality of sleep as well as specific and functional nutrition.
SEE THE WOOD FOR THE TREES:
Given that a detailed and specific nutrition plan can only be prescribed by physicians, nutritionists or dieticians (with a medical prescription), I'd like to provide useful information to those who - even if they shouldn't - opt for a do-it-yourself approach, to at least to provide a guideline focusing on the basic elements, as we know that the first rule is to do no harm.
Elements that greatly affect body composition:
- Calorific balance
- Distribution of macronutrients
- Diet-induced stress
Elements that generally affect body composition:
- Choice of food sources
- Targeted supplements (where actual deficiencies exist)
- Any documented food intolerances
Elements that marginally affect body composition:
- Number of meals
- Nutritional timing
- Targeted supplements (where the diet itself is well-structured)
When it comes to hypocaloric regimen, it will always be a source of stress for the body (to be combined with the stress induced by exercise and daily life), and will both affect recovery from training sessions and body composition due to stress-induced endocrine implications (cortisol, etc.). Since there isn't much that we can do about this factor, what we can do is make the diet more flexible and sustainable, to at least escape the psychological-emotional stress component, by focusing on a few key points (calorie balance and macronutrient breakdown) and leaving the larger parts aside (at least during the initial phase).
ADVANTAGES OF A FLEXIBLE APPROACH:
- There are no prohibited foods, so the sources of our macronutrients can vary, following the 80/20 rule (80% "clean" foods, max 20% "dirty" foods).
- "Off" days or cheat meals are not needed, as we have the opportunity to occasionally give in to what we want, "giving in without giving up". This will help us in not ending up in the vicious circle of the weekend binge, which is typical of female users (and not only), which often result in more serious eating disorders.
- A flexible approach will enable a long-term diet to be pursued without incurring a crisis, which is the result of the boredom imposed from eating the same things.
- The potential to be present at social occasions (dinners, birthdays), "recovering" any excess macros over the following days, falling into the calorie allowance and weekly breakdown
A BASIC APPROACH TO DETERMINING THE ENERGY INTAKE AND BREAKDOWN OF MACRONUTIENTS:
You have to start by calculating your TDEE (Total Daily Expenditure) in one on two ways:
- Using specific formulas
- Food diary method
The food diary method, which I think is more accurate, can only be used if your weight is stable, in which case your weekly calorie intake coincides with your TDEE.
- Write down everything that is eaten (oil and condiments included) during the one-week monitoring period
- Monitor weight and ensure it stays constant
- Add the various caloric intakes from Monday to Sunday
- Divide the sum by 7 to obtain the daily average (TDEE)
WEIGHT MAINTENCE: Remain on the TDEE
WEIGHT LOSS: TDEE – 10/15%
WEIGHT INCREASE: TDEE + 10/15%
MACRONUTRIENTS AND PERCENTAGES: WHERE DO YOU START?
For the macronutrient breakdown, a very good starting point may be a Simil-Zone subdivision (over the period of the day without considering individual meals): 40-30-30
However, this is a starting point to be evaluated and personalised based on feedback obtained (performance, circumference, weight, folds), considering, in principle, the potential of intervening with +/- 5-10% on the percentages of macronutrients.
FOOD SUPPLEMENTS AND FLEXIBLE DIETING:
As for basic food supplementation, it is recommended in a hypocaloric, multivitamin/multimineral context, since no sufficient micronutrient intake is guaranteed under a certain caloric threshold. In addition, in a hypocaloric context I personally recommend Phosphatilderine supplements to counteract excess cortisol.
Mattia Lorenzini - Personal Trainer, specialised in Sports Nutrition
Author of the divulgative project Corporesano - Food & Training System